Technology | Nostalgia | Home Computers | 1980s

Remembering the Sinclair ZX Spectrum — Happy 40th Birthday

Facts, opinions, and personal memories of my first home computer

Alan (AJ) Autistic Widower
8 min readApr 23, 2022


Is it really the 40th anniversary of Sinclair ZX Spectrum? How quickly those years have gone by!

I couldn’t let the day pass without writing something. So I put this article together at the last minute using material I first wrote a few years ago for a now-defunct blog.

A slightly tatty-looking Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K on a wooden table
A tatty 48K ZX Spectrum I bought around 1988, a few years after selling my original 16K machine. Photo by the author, Autistic Widower.

First Computer At Home

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum is a particularly significant 8-bit computer for me because it was the first computer I ever owned.

Improving on the ZX81

Like the ZX81 before it, the ZX Spectrum was heavily advertised in the various electronics magazines I read back in the 80s.

Released in 1982, the Spectrum improved on the ZX81 in several ways, such as adding colour and sound, as well as more memory (16 / 48 KB, instead of 1 KB), and an improved keyboard.

It also had a bigger ROM — at 16 KB it was twice as big as the one in the ZX81.

An advert for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum from the September 1982 issue of Everyday Electronics. It proclaimed the machine was the world’s best personal computer for under £500.
Sinclair’s ZX Spectrum advert in Everyday Electronics, September 1982. Photo by the author, Autistic Widower.

The Spectrum’s Z80 microprocessor was clocked a little faster than the one in the ZX81 (3.5 MHz instead of 3.25 MHz), and it did away with its predecessor’s FAST and SLOW modes, by delivering the best of both modes.

The Spectrum’s rubber keyboard wasn’t anything like as good as the one found on machines like the Apple II and BBC Micro.

Some people think the Oric-1 had a better keyboard. Whether that’s true or not, it was certainly a big improvement over the membrane keyboard found on the ZX81.

Programs were usually stored on cassette, using a normal audio cassette recorder. Running at 1500 bps, the Spectrum’s cassette interface was about five times faster than the ZX81’s.

As an alternative to cassette, the optional Microdrive could be used instead. Microdrives were a cheap but unreliable floppy disk…



Alan (AJ) Autistic Widower

Random life stories, opinions, and a dry sense of humour. A 55-year-old former electronics engineer and programmer in England. ☕️